A car stops in front of the shop & an obviously out-of-town couple steps out to enter the shop. They look around & you can clearly see the delight in the lady's face. The man instinctively clutches on to his wallet pocket! 'These are simply beautiful' she exclaims while feasting her eyes on the shapes & colours of the stone-ware pottery displayed. The man checks the prices & looks around ……. He catches my eye. 'Are you associated with this shop? I am Ram…. from Bangalore'. His wife remarks that the pottery is unique. I extend my hand.' Yes, I'm a Trustee. You can call me Robin Hood'.
The Potters Shed was born from a dream. It all started about 20 years ago in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, when a teacher at the Kodaikanal International School happened to see a village potter at work. Enchanted by the beauty of the teenaged potter's hands, as they shaped the clay on his rustic wheel, the germ of an idea sprouted in his mind. The realization that village potters lead a hand-to-mouth existence, always on the verge of dire poverty, and his commitment to help disadvantaged children prompted him to begin turning his dream into a reality. Quite ignorant of the technicalities of training a village potter in the intricacies of glazed stoneware production, he boldly asked master potters in Pondicherry, India, if they would take on the young man, Subramaniam, as a trainee. For them it was a bold experiment and an act of extraordinary generosity. Four years later, Subramaniam was ready to move to Kodaikanal, and the Potters Shed Trust came into being. The production unit and sales outlet are both located in the hill station of Kodaikanal, in South India.
The trustees who manage the production and sale of pottery are all committed to keeping the dream alive, and ensuring the success of the experiment. More village potters have been trained since then, and they have lifted themselves out of poverty, into a life of self sustenance and dignity. Since its creation the trust has changed the lives of other rural children by providing financial assistance for their education and health. Each year, the number of children who benefit from the profits generated by the production and sale of pottery, increases.
Today more than 110 children are educated by the Potters Shed. The children are all from economically disadvantaged families. Parents of these children are either employed as unskilled or part-time workers, or unemployed due to illness or disability. The trust provides tuition and an annual medical examination for children ranging in age from 3 to 18 years in ten different local schools. Once a child is admitted into the programme, the Trust funds her/his education through school.
The trust is aided in its efforts by donations from people who want to make a difference in the lives of children. It appreciates this assistance because, with it, the trust is able to increase the number of young people who benefit from the advantages of a formal education.